Jailed Former Taiwan President in Suicide Attempt

china-chen-shui-bian-sept-2012-crop-600.jpg Chen Shui-bian arrives at a hospital for an examination under guard in Taipei, Sept. 11, 2012.

Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term for corruption, has tried to commit suicide, the island's ministry of justice said on Monday.

"Chen Shui-bian was found yesterday in the bathroom attached to his cell, after having tried to commit suicide with three towels," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Chen, who has repeatedly denied the corruption charges against him, is believed to have tried to hang himself from the shower fittings, which measure less than one meter above floor level, the ministry said.

"He was found lying down, facing outwards and upwards, with the towels twisted around his neck, and his hands grasping the towels, in an attempt to hang himself," the statement said.

The prison authorities had called a psychologist to visit the former president, who was indicted on charges of transferring political campaign funds to overseas bank accounts only after he stepped down at the end of his second term in 2008.

The justice ministry said Chen's mood was "gradually improving," after the incident, and that a health assessment had found no serious problems.

"They discovered that Chen Shui-bian was tied up in three towels, trying to get them around his neck to hang himself," Chen Ming-tang told a news conference in Taipei on Monday.

"They quickly got the towels off him ... and they called the duty doctor and nurse from the Pei-te Hospital, to check his blood pressure and heart rate, and so on," he added.

"At the time, he had slightly elevated blood pressure, but there was nothing else out of the ordinary."

'Depressed mood'

Chen had told prison staff that he was unhappy that his attempts to rejoin his former party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had been unsuccessful, as had his attempts to have some of the evidence against him discounted in the wake of recent changes to accounting laws, the minister said.

"He said he had been in a very depressed mood because of this, and had suicidal thoughts," Chen Ming-tang said.

Chen, a former firebrand parliamentarian and pro-independence activist who served jail time during martial law rule under the Kuomintang Nationalist party, also survived a 2004 assassination attempt during his campaign for re-election.

After being grazed by a bullet from a home-made gun, Chen went on to win a narrow second-term victory. The opposing Nationalist KMT party accused Chen's campaign of staging the attack in order to win crucial votes.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists.

Reported by Tung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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